Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena through September 25, 2017
At the Norton Simon Museum it is easy to be distracted by the many Rodin sculptures at its entrance or to be seduced by the Museum’s beautiful outdoor sculpture garden set in its backyard with a pond that surely would have captivated Monet, or be transfixed by the Van Goghs and Impressionist masterpieces in the galleries, or even the Adam & Eve by Cranach that is the subject of a Holocaust restitution dispute. However, if you make your way down the stairs to the basement galleries, past the Asian art, hidden in two windless rooms, you will find a wonderful exhibit well worth your time on Galka Scheyer, a German Jewish refugee whose passion for the work of her fellow artists made her one of LA’s premiere salonists, art lecturer, consultant, collector and art dealer.
© Nolde Stiftung Seebüll, German
Head in Profile, 1919, Emil Nolde (German, 1867-1956) Watercolor and India ink on tan wove paper 14-1/2 x 11-1/8 in. (36.8 x 28.3 cm) Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
Scheyer was an extraordinary personality. Born in 1889 in Brausnschweig, Germany, to a middle class Jewish family, she studied art in London and at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, prior to painting full time. However, in 1921 she organized an exhibition in Lausanne, Switzerland, for Alexei Jawlensky, the Russian artist who she had known for several years. Jawlensky, in turn, introduced her to Lyonel Fenninger, Paul Klee and Vasily Kadinsky, all of whom were teaching with Jawlensky at the Bauhaus in Germany. This meeting proved to be fateful for all four as well as for Scheyer.
By 1924, Scheyer was representing the quartet in the United States, having branded them “The Blue Four” (A nod both to their being post-Fauvist artists and the Blue Rider German art movement Kadinsky had founded in 1909). Scheyer arranged exhibitions (and sales) of their work in New York, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Scheyer also launched herself as a modern art expert, giving lectures on Modernism and Art, and affiliating herself as an art consultant to the Oakland Museum of Art and the County Museum in Los Angeles. It was in Los Angeles that she met the collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, and decided to plant herself there, to thrive near her best clients. She lived in an art-filled Hollywood home built by Richard Neutra (and later photographed by Julius Shulman).
Scheyer had a great eye, a very entrepreneurial spirit, and a gift for friendship with artists and collectors alike. The Norton Simon exhibit features works artists gave her as gifts, including Jawlensky’s “The Hunchback” and Klee’s “Possibilities at Sea,” a 1932 work that Scheyer called “one of the most amazing pictures I have ever experienced.”
C Norton Simon Museum
Plants in the Courtyard, 1932, Paul Klee (Swiss, 1879-1940) Oil and gouache on heavy wove paper mounted (not by the artist) on board sheet: 14-3/4 x 21-1/8 in. (37.5 x 53.7 cm) Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
It goes without saying that Scheyer was a life saver to these artists whose work (if not their lives) Hitler sought to erase from the earth.
Each of the artists featured in “Mavens” is worth spending time with. In Jawlensky, who is little known in the United States, we see the progression from figurative drawings to paintings where emotion is expressed in color; and from there to cubist and formal abstractions; and, finally, distinctive abstracts. Feninger’s watercolors seem to float out of the frames. Kadinsky is the master of abstract art. Here, we see Kadinsky’s Russian constructivist and suprematist influences leading to works of pure abstraction. The Swiss painter Paul Klee presents yet another variation on cubism and abstraction, producing works more mysterious, and psychological that seem to sprout from the unconscious – both Klee’s and ours.
In addition, the exhibit features work from Scheyer’s not insubstantial collection, a very good Picasso, and works by Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Alexander Archipenko, El Lissitzky, Lazslo Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Schlemmer, Kurt Schwitters, Diego Rivera and photographs by Imogene Cunningham and Edward Weston.
“Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California” is well worth seeing for its art, curated by Gloria Williams Sander, intelligently and with great empathy, but also as inspiration drawn from the life of a woman who made a living of Art, made artists a living, and who gave life to the Modern Art so well displayed at The Norton Simon.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Tommywood